Cursive and Other Archaic Skills

My daughter recently reviewed the various academic programs available at the Hill Country elementary school which Wee Jamie will eventually attend, when she makes her pile in real estate and moves up to that community. Among the skills on offer is training in writing cursive – which we were both pretty thrilled to hear about. (Although I do hold out for home-schooling Wee Jamie.) Apparently, teaching cursive handwriting has been pretty much phased out in elementary school curriculums of late – in favor of either printing or keyboarding… apparently, very few people now hand-write documents. Scrawling a signature is about as far as most people go, these days of computers, cellphones, email and being able to fill out forms on-line.
For myself, I have perfectly awful handwriting; not all the cursive practice in third and fourth grade could remedy this quality a single iota. Frankly, I envy anyone who has excellent flowing Palmer-style handwriting, or the gentleman I met at an art show who could do perfect gothic script lettering – freehand. I have usually resorted to printing, if legibility to another person was a requirement, and there wasn’t a typewriter or computer handy. But I fully support Wee Jamie being taught to write cursive, for the very excellent reason that even if you can’t handwrite legibly – you can still read handwritten documents. Otherwise, whole libraries and archives are closed to someone who simply can’t read such documents.

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Visual Disaster

I admit to being alternately horrified and amused at Google’s Gemini AI visual disaster. Usually, a pratfall of this magnitude involves a bakery-worth of thrown cream pies. Frankly, I am relishing the spectacle of a publicity disaster this epic; a fail so huge as to be practically visible from outer space. We mere mortals are not often given the privilege of watching our so-called betters sequentially step on a yard full of cosmic rakes. Just desserts, just main course, a whole hors d’oeuvres of crow!

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The Question of When…

The question of when to talk to your children, when you live in a repressive dictatorship was something I remember from reading James Michener’s essay into political reporting The Bridge at Andau; an account into the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 against the Soviet Union, published the following year. There came a time when parents of school-aged children, Michener wrote, had to open up to their children, if they were anti-Soviet dissidents, religious, or simply Hungary-first patriots. It was a fine line; either live a lie in front of your children regarding your own beliefs, and at worst, see them irretrievably buy into the whole Soviet system if you left it too late, or trusting that they were sufficiently mature, to be adept at concealing such dissident beliefs in front of their schoolfellows, Communist-indoctrinated teachers – and informers among them. How old did your children need to be, before they could dissemble in front of peers, teachers and spying informants among them? It was a matter of deep concern to Hungarian parents, as Michener related. (Parenthetically, as a teenager and young adult I had never been the least bit enchanted by the golden chimera of communism in any guise. Growing up, my parents knew too many people who had fled from Communist-dominated or threatened countries and had heart-rending stories to tell of their experiences in living in and fleeing Cuba, Russia, Eastern Europe, the far East. Reading Michener’s account of the Hungarian Revolt definitely drew a line under my antipathy towards all-powerful dictatorships of the so-called proletariat.)

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Floating in the Trope-Sphere

Towards the end of the Vietnam war, and for at least another decade after it ended, there was a trope/cliché which always could be depended on in movies and television; the whacked out, dysfunctional and traumatized veteran; sometimes a victim, often the guilty party, but always and reliably whacked-out. Even news media got into the act, now and again, interviewing theatrically dysfunctional, traumatized veterans, who – on cue – related how they had supped full on the horrors of the war in southeast Asia. This was so pervasive that for-real veterans for years were advised to leave periods of military service off resumes when job-hunting, and to never, never, ever advertise any connection to military service, be it with a ring, a gimme ballcap, a tee shirt, or an OD green field jacket … unless, of course, they were in the war protest movement.

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